The first sign of fall in CNET's San Francisco office isn't the turning of leaves--it's the ever-increasing waves of new product announcements. MP3 players in particular start cropping up in late summer, perhaps in an attempt to get a jump on Apple's typical September iPod announcement.
Creative got anwith its new Zen players a couple of weeks ago, and now Sony is joining the fray. Today, the company announced a rev to its Walkman line of MP3 players in the form of the B-Series, E-Series, and S-Series.
The S-Series represents the top of the line and is arguably the most exciting of the bunch. This new Walkman, which is available in a gunmetal black finish, comes with the integrated noise-canceling capability found on the Sony NWZ-S710.
A pair of complementing, high-end earphones are included in the package, along with an accessory cable that allows the player to be used as a standalone noise-canceling module for use with other audio devices--a unique feature that's ideal for use with in-flight entertainment systems.
Sony has also added support for WMV video (including DRM files from the likes of Amazon Unbox), an FM tuner, and a separate podcast menu item for easier management of the content. In addition, the S Series is the first Walkman to feature a customizable interface that includes a variety of themes and the ability to set personal photos as wallpaper.
Perhaps the coolest feature, however, is the SensMe Channels function, which is a "smart" DJ that uses an algorithm to analyze songs in order to create custom playlists (up to 11) based on each track's speed, mood, and rhythm. Other features include a 2-inch color screen and a rated battery life of 40 hours for audio. The S Series, which is available in 4GB and 8GB capacities for $149.95 and $179.95 (respectively), is expected to hit online shelves in the next three to four weeks.
The other video player in the line, the E-Series, is set to replace the NWZ-A720. This Walkman also features a 2-inch color screen and WMV/Amazon Unbox support. It has a fantastic rated battery life of 45 hours for audio and 8 hours for video and will be available within the next two weeks in four color options: black, red, pink, or blue. It is significantly more affordable than the S-Series, at $99.95 for the 4GB version and $139.95 for the 8GB.
Last but not least is Sony's new budget model, the B-Series, also available within one to two weeks. This player features a built-in USB interface for true plug-and-play capability, as well as a one-touch bass boost button, an FM tuner, and a voice recorder. Sony has also reintroduced its quick charge function, which gives 90 minutes of playback off of a three-minute charge. The 1GB B-Series, selling for $44.95, comes in black, red, or blue, while the 2GB is priced at $59.95 and decked out in black, red, or pink.
All models in the new Walkman line support MP3, AAC, and both DRM and non-DRM WMA audio. The video players accept WMV, H.264, and MPEG-4 video files.
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